Digital Promotoras uses photography as the medium for our students to look at their communities critically and identify areas in need of change. The powerful images presented by work from both classes represent Acts of Love and Resistance and display definitions students ascribe to each act within their communities as uncertainties and injustices have only become more pronounced in the past year. In showcasing our students’ unique perspectives, we hope that our community is inspired to continue these Acts of Love and Resistance, for the well-being not only of us as individuals, but as a collective that strives for equality and sustainability.

The past year has given us all much to think about as we process continued injustices and inequalities that continue to plague our communities. Through this 16 week journey, students engaged in creating images that documented resiliency and strength throughout their communities as they used photojournalism as a framework to bring awareness to issues of importance and concern to them. From the overlooked importance and nourishment of nature to the portrayal and humanization of communities of color to the neglect we see in the spaces we inhabit , these acts seen through our students’ eyes, show us that resistance takes many forms..

Teaching Artist: Justin Serulneck

Mentors: Alicia Ramirez, Dyanne Cano, Isabel Castro, Leah Choi, Nicole Maturo, Piper Sellers, and Rebecca Aranda


Featuring:
Alyssa Ho
Ariana Perez
Aryana Yanez
Catherine Rodriguez
Karissa Morales
Kimberly Espinosa
Melania Espinal
Nicole Moguel
Paola Jaime
Sawyer Sarinana

Alyssa Ho, 17

Alyssa is an eleventh grader at the California School of the Arts, specializing in creative writing. The conservatory allows her to freely express her creativity without limits and boundaries. She likes to write short stories, novels, poetry, and journalism, but most of all, she enjoys writing mini musicals, getting to collaborate between the conservatories with student actors and musicians. Alyssa is a two time winner of the Blank Theater’s Young Playwrights Festival. Last year they helped produce her musical, “Watch You’re [sic] Mouth” and this summer her musical, “Make-up with Mallory: Special 29th Birthday Babe Edition!! <3” will be produced. To further explore ways to bring her writing to life, Alyssa has studied narrative film in the California State Summer School for the Arts program (CSSSA) at CalArts and documentary filmmaking with Girls’ Voices Now.


The Designers and the Escapees

This exhibition explores the blend and contrast of man-made structures and nature as well as our own connections with them, whether it be to control or appreciate our environment.

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Cells Under a Microscope

Through a pagoda at the Huntington Library. It leads somewhere better.

Spiders

A network of communication is suspended before the sunset.

Codes

At the end of San Simeon Pier, people leave their last mark before an untamed nature.

Ariana Perez, 15

Ariana Perez is a 15-year old high school Freshman. Her passions include music, art and literature, and especially Science. She is currently learning basic computer science and how to code. She likes to write poetry, take photos and create films that tell a story.


Surviving COVID as a Mexican Restaurant

This is a photographic series that looks at the ways that Hispanic restaurants and the food industry are dealing with the pandemic. It captures how food workers are working during their after hours, including cooking and cleaning up. The photographs give insight into how restaurants are dealing with covid guidelines, and how the guidelines have affected their workplace. This photography series also incorporates an interview with the owner of the restaurant, Mi Casita. The interview explores how the owner of Mi Casita, Jesus Gonzalez, has run the business during COVID, what changes he’s had to make, and the biggest impacts that COVID had on his business. The interview also shows how restaurant owners have persevered and, along with the photographs, show how the business is getting back on track to normal life.

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Al Pastor

At the restaurant, Mi Casita, the owner built an outdoor taco stand to accommodate open-air seating, per COVID guidelines. The woman, Rosa, is cutting meat off an Al Pastor skewer for tacos.

Your Welcoming Waitress

At the restaurant, El Cantarito, a waitress serves Mexican food.

Kitchen Work

At the restaurant, 301 Cafe, a cook prepares Mexican food while wearing a mask to follow COVID safety procedures.

Aryana Yanez, 18

Aryana Yanez is a high school senior at John Marshall High School. In the fall, she will be attending college as a political science major. Aryana was a founding member of the student-led club, “Todos Comen,” where she led educational workshops about ongoing issues that affect the latinx community. She has also interned at the non profit organizations Peace Over Violence and the Salvadoran American Leadership Fund. In her free time, Aryana enjoys spending time in nature, hiking, and cooking. Being in the kitchen always brings Aryana calmness and she enjoys making others happy with the dishes she creates. She has two cats, Boots and Mochi. Her love for cats led her to volunteer at an animal shelter during her first two years of high school. One of Aryana’s lifelong goals is to travel the world and try different cuisines.


My project is focused on food apartheid. My photography depicts the disparity in access to fresh, healthy, and affordable foods within Los Angeles.

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Organic

Organic vegetables for sale at the Armstrong Garden Center in Carlsbad, California. The neighboring expensive homes are a reminder of wealthier areas of Los Angeles where community gardens and locally sourced produce can be found. As a result of food apartheid, these necessities are hard to come by in lower-class neighborhoods across LA.

Fast Food Staples

Studies show that one of the strongest influences on consumerism is easy access to products. Fast food restaurants such as this Jack in the Box offer all sorts of services to attract customers. Through drive-throughs, customers can get meals, drinks, and desserts without leaving the comfort of their cars.

Geography and Food

By using the term Food Apartheid instead of food desert we are acknowledging racial segregation, and systemic oppression that has resulted in inequity for POC. This image pictures a busy street and is representative of geography as a contributing factor to inequality. Food apartheid is an intersectional issue that can’t be solved without first confronting social injustice.

Catherine Rodriguez, 16

I’m a sophomore at Alliance HS and grew up in South Central and Huntington Park. I like watching anime, international & A24 films, and documentaries; I love learning from them since sometimes they teach us morals and show certain perspectives we aren’t taught in school. I am also fond of documenting moments or entities we usually take for granted, like the waves on a beach, getting on a city [Metro] train, or someone you love laughing. I want to learn how to best take photographs to capture these interesting moments and objects from my own point of view. I have been a violinist for seven years. I am grateful for the experience because I’ve had a unique opportunity to learn to play classical music through YOLA of Harmony Project and perform at places like The Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall. I have enjoyed the aesthetics of photography from a young age.


My project revolves around small businesses in Huntington Park, the neighborhood support, and familial or community building they provide. This project also amplifies their actions against big corporations and capitalism, as well as the impact the pandemic has made on these businesses.

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Loneliness

There’s isolation and emptiness present in this room now due to the pandemic. One of the employees at the barbershop said that the pandemic affected their business greatly, and in a negative way. He said it felt lonely without customers and is often quiet.

Carol

Carol is the owner of Carol’s Hair Salon, which has been in business for 16 years. Carol said, “Thanks to the opportunities I’ve been given, I have been able to better myself.” She said that COVID-19 has impacted her business since she had to close for six months, but thankfully she recently reopened.

La Tortilleria

Each community has unique cultures; which are presented in the shops, people, clothing, and even the atmosphere. If you go to a Latinx community like Huntington Park, you will most likely find a tortilleria or panaderia that specializes in making conchas (sweet bread) and bolillos (white bread rolls). Playa Azul Tortilleria somewhat represents the overall ambiance and culture of HP.

Karissa Morales, 16

I am Karissa Morales, a 16 years-old mujerx who currently lives in the rural ends of Tucson, Arizona. My interest in photography started with my admiration of zines and the work of photographer Lola Alvarez Bravo. With a borrowed camera, my passion for photography led to an exploration of creativity and identity.

In my work, I aim to capture the complexities of what it is to be an individual within the frame of black and white. Through my stills of people, I have had that opportunity to capture the lone members of a rich community in the indulgence of daily life, family intimacy, and overall the sentiment of compassion. You can also view my work at the Arizona Nature Conservancy as a photo finalist and community member.


Criar y Quidad

To grow and to take care of. Actions of mutual care shown within my community, family, and self.

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A Boy Kissing a Chicken

A boy kissing a chicken. Captured in black in white while chasing animals on grandfather’s land, the image displays an interaction between humans and their animals and the growth that occurs.

Manos de Amor

A brief moment of nurturing exchanged between a mother and daughter. Motherhood is the most revered occupation but is hardly shown within the patriarchal structure of society. This is a system that reveres us as mothers but does not always respect us as people. The embrace represents understanding and the ability to recognize the sacrifices made by my mother.

The Journey Home

A mother and daughter captured at the bus station in Downtown Tucson. This mother and daughter await the arrival of the bus to continue their journey home. The woman displays self-sacrifice as she retains her motherly obligations despite the tiredness.

Kimberly Espinosa, 16

Kimberly Espinosa (she/they) is a 16-year-old Zapotec community organizer and artist based on Tongva land. She currently attends high school in Koreatown, the home most familiar to her besides their ancestors’ land back in Mexico. They hope to be home soon. She feels comfort in having photographs of her Mom, Dad, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. Since her Dad’s passing, connecting to their ancestral roots by documenting their family’s story through multimedia like interviews and photographs has been an essential part of healing. She appreciates being able to share stories through a collection of photographs and other archived media. This semester, she was able to explore ancestral roots, healing, and community through photography. Moving forward, Kimberly intends to continue pursuing storytelling through different creative mediums like creative writing and photojournalism.


BENE XTIDXA’, PART 1: OAXACALIFORNIA

This project documents the Zapotec community I am honored to grow up with and their daily acts of resistance.

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CHILD OF ANCESTORS

Every day, I have the opportunity of learning from and growing up with my nieces. Together, we count the numbers in Zapoteco from 1 to 10. Other times, I also get to enjoy watching them dance along to the jarabes played at home. I am filled with gratitude to share with them the memories of our ancestors. I am too hopeful that they will continue to share these with the rest of our family.

ALEGRÍA ES RESISTENCIA TAMBIÉN

From being raised in the Pico-Union area to launching their recent project, LA SERRANITA, Melina and Anahí share many memories, many of which bring joy.

HONORING WITH RESPECT

In moments of stress, or even when she is having a good day, Danza Azteca is what keeps Linda balanced. Through Danza, she has also met her best friend and partner. Danza has provided her a way to reconnect with her ancestors and be in community.

Melania Espinal, 15

My name is Melania Espinal and I live in Los Angeles California. I’m 15 years old and am a sophomore at Eagle Rock High School. I would describe myself as hyper-curious, ambitious, and quite idealistic. I usually find myself day-dreaming about my future and new creative projects. In times of thinking about my future, I often find myself thinking about being a structural engineer or architect, due to my perception of the careers being the perfect medium between a stem career and incorporating arts. Along with the aforementioned, I am incredibly inspired by Fiona Apple and FKA Twigs and love everything they create; Especially Twigs’ visuals and Fiona’s musicality. I try my best to capture the duality of my interests, from reading radical texts and community organizing to playing piano. I love to create and do.


Border & Rule

My project’s goal is to display the effects of colonialism on colonized communities. The significance that borders hold in power. In fact, it is heavily inspired by a book I read also called Border & Rule. From religion to land, to money, we see the struggle and resistance to a settler-colonial state, nearly 600 years after Columbus’ state-sponsored sail.

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Blood on the walls

Tijuana, Mexico. On an impromptu road trip to Mexico, I was captivated by the border wall. It looked like a red rollercoaster. Borders aren’t real. Borders work in favor of the settler-colonial state.

Sweat on the walls

Ensenada, Mexico. An everyday busy street, filled with cars and flanked by buildings. The Spanish architecture curves like the mountains surrounded by the border, but something that isn’t natural is here. The Mexican flag flies, bright and vibrant in the sunshine.

Tears on the walls

Ensenada, Mexico. A wall of crosses for purchase at a roadside store. Christianity for consumption. What was used to conquer is now barren and weak. I would call it karma but it’s just capitalism!

Nicole Moguel, 18

Nicole Moguel is 18 years old and grew up in Los Angeles. She recently graduated from John Marshall High School (class of 2021) and has committed to UC Berkeley. Go Bears!

Nicole became interested in photography after learning about camera movements and angles in her humanities class and wishes to major in Film and Media Studies in college. As a Latina, her goal is to be relevant in the film industry. She knows that we are limited to the stereotypical representation of others that are created by those in power and wants to expose others to the true stories and perspectives that we don’t often see or hear about.

Nicole values learning and hopes that exploring photography and cinematography will allow her to explore herself and others.


Alone Together

From in-person learning to getting on zoom for hours on end, no one knew what to expect with the pandemic and distance learning. As one of my subjects described, “The role of technology and human connections were tested all at once.” It became more integral than ever to feel supported by loved ones during this time of isolation. These photos are about the students of John Marshall High School and how they feel connected to their school and their community. The captions are quotes from these students.

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Chelsea

“I definitely didn’t think I would be spending my first year of high school at home. Like anyone, I expected to be able to sit in a class, learn, and socialize like any other person. I knew it was going to be hard and different, I just wasn’t expecting it to be like this.

Never Thought I Would Miss This

“There are some things I miss about school that I never thought I would. 1) Hanging out with your friends every day. 2) Being able to do a sport for two semesters. 3) Having a consistent schedule at the end of the day. Now my schedule is all over the place and I need to get that under control.”

Familiarity

“[G]oing to school in person and talking/seeing my girlfriend and friends was really therapeutic. Just being around them, even if no words were spoken…made me feel better. It reminded me that it was all worth it.”

Paola Jaime, 18

My name is Paola Jaime and I’m an 18-year-old Latina living in the heart of Boyle Heights. Currently, I’m a freshman studying political science at UC Davis. Through photography, I have been able to break out of my shell of shyness and insecurity and express myself and the needs of my community. I utilize photography to tell a visual narrative about the cultural richness and everyday realities of my family and community. One of my favorite things to do is walk around my community and curiously observe the space around me. I’ve practically walked down every street in East L.A. at this point, but I find that there is always something new to discover. Everything that exists in Boyle Heights has a unique story worth highlighting in my eyes — every person, every business and every street. I hope to capture and elevate the stories of my community in my future photography work.


Las Tienditas De Boyle Heights

My project is a visual narrative showing how the historic businesses in Boyle Heights have survived during the pandemic.

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Protect Our Essential Workers

This image was taken during an evening walk in Boyle Heights. A poster calling for people to protect essential workers — in both English and Spanish — was repeatedly plastered over a boarded-up building. And while the words speak for themselves, the details of the space tell us about the mostly Latino workforce in the community — many of whom are essential workers themselves.

Sonidos de Vida

For the owners of Sonidos del Valle, the only record store in Boyle Heights, the storefront is more than a business, it’s a passion. “I want everyone to have the chance to explore music, its history, and its importance,” one of the owners said. In this photo, a customer sifts through stacks of records set up in front of the store.

Dulcecitos

El Mercado encompasses East L.A.’s diverse Latino culture with its many restaurants and vendors. The market is always a flurry of activity and harkens back to the busy street markets found in Latin America. In this photo, customers purchase their items as a display of traditional Mexican candies tries to lure them to purchase more.

Sawyer Sarinana, 14

Hi! I’m Sawyer, 14-years-old, born and raised in Los Angeles. From a young age, I have had a love for reading and stories — no matter where I was I always had a book at my side — and through journalism, and later photography, I have been able to tell stories of my own. By researching new topics and capturing moments around me, I have become more immersed in my community and have started to think more critically. My work has been inspired not only by my own experiences, but by other photographers as well who have helped me to develop a style of my own. Some of my dreams are to be a photojournalist or write and photograph stories of the lesser-known and slightly strange.


In the wake of the pandemic, we have all been forced to stop and take stock of the objects in our lives and how they serve us — or not. My project is a reflection of how everyday objects slowly become obsolete despite our best efforts to resist the inevitable.

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The Bible Car

Instead of moving forward, the car becomes a front for the word of the bible. And while it, presumably, continues to carry its passengers to their destinations, the owner hopes to use it to spread his beliefs, yet another way to resist obsolescence.

Decaying Building

But despite our best efforts to resist the need for change, the need for objects to become obsolete, the day will always come that resistance ends. For this building, there is nothing left to resist as the end grows ever closer.

Crosswalk Sign

This sign, damaged by a sharp object, remains a useful reminder of dangerous possibilities. And while it could be easily pushed away or replaced, its continued existence is a constant reminder of something (pokey) that happened at the corner.

Special thank you to our Digital Promotoras program funders: Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles; USC Good Neighbors Initiative; CA Arts Council; The Leonian Foundation; Dwight Stuart Youth Fund, The Annenberg Foundation and the Yerba Buena Fund.